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FIGHTING FOOD INSECURITY ON LONG ISLAND

As part of our Chasing The Dream initiative on poverty, justice, and economic opportunity in America- Randi Shubin Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest food bank- the largest food relief organization in Long Island and New York State Commissioner Of Agriculture, Richard Ball join us tonight to discuss the challenges of combating food insecurity amid the pandemic.

AIRED: November 18, 2020 | 0:12:23
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

I'M GENJENNA FLANAGAN.

THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS PUT

MANY FAMILIES INTO FINANCIAL

PERIL.

AS A RESULT MORE AND MORE PEOPLE

FIND THEMSELVES STRUGGLING WITH

FOOD INSECURITY.

ACROSS OUR REGION FOOD BANKS AND

FOOD PANTRIES HAVE SEEN A SURGE

IN DEMAND.

SO TO HELP MEET THAT DEMAND THE

NEW YORK AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT

HAS BEEN PARTNERING WITH LOCAL

FOOD RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS TO

DELIVER FRESH PRODUCE TO THOSE

WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN NEED.

SO JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT

THAT PARTNERSHIP AS WELL AS THE

CHALLENGES OF COMBATING FOOD

INSECURITY AMID THE PANDEMIC IS

RANDI SHUBIN RESNER, PRESIDENT

AND CEO OF THE ISLAND HARVEST

FOOD BANK, THE LARGEST FOOD

ORGANIZATION ON LONG ISLAND.

RANDI, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

ME.

>> AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY NEW

YORK STATE COMMISSIONER OF

AGRICULTURE RICHARD BALL.

RICHARD, WELCOME.

>> GREAT TO BE WITH YOU, JENNA.

>> THEY BOTH JOIN ME AS PART OF

OUR "CHASING THE DREAM"

INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE,

AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN

AMERICA.

SO RANDI, I'D LIKE TO START WITH

YOU AND JUST HAVE YOU TELL US

JUST SORT OF A BRIEF SYNOPSIS

ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION AND MORE

IMPORTANTLY THE NUMBER OF

FAMILIES THAT FIND THEMSELVES IN

NEED OF YOUR SERVICE.

>> SO A FOOD BANK ON LONG ISLAND

HELPING IN NORMAL TIMES NOT

DURING A PANDEMIC ABOUT 300,000

FAMILIES EACH YEAR.

SO IN A COMMUNITY THAT IS

COMMONLY KNOWN AS HAVING SOME OF

THE WEALTHIEST ZIP CODES IN THE

COUNTRY, ABOUT 1 IN 10 LONG

ISLANDERS ARE STRUGGLING WITH

HUNGER.

AND WHAT WE USED TO SAY WAS

THERE WERE POCKETS OF POVERTY

ACROSS LONG ISLAND.

NOW WE OFTEN SAY THAT THERE ARE

POCKETS OF WEALTH BECAUSE THERE

IS SO MUCH NEED ACROSS LONG

ISLAND.

IN RECENT MONTHS, SINCE MARCH,

WE OPENED UP OUR EMERGENCY

RESOURCE CENTER, AND IN JUST THE

PAST SEVEN MONTHS WE HAVE HELPED

MORE THAN 400,000 FAMILIES.

THE INCREASE HAS BEEN QUITE

DRAMATIC.

WE HAVE PARTICIPATED IN AND

HOSTED ABOUT 1,000 FOOD

DISTRIBUTION EVENTS IN JUST

THESE PAST FEW MONTHS.

AND ARE REALLY DOING WHAT WE CAN

TO MEET THE NEEDS OF SO MANY

PEOPLE WHO ARE STRUGGLING HERE

ON LONG ISLAND.

I COULD GO ON AND ON WITH

STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME

TO THE FOOD BANK FOR THE VERY

FIRST TIME.

>> OF COURSE.

OF COURSE.

AND SO RICHARD, THIS IS WHERE I

WANT TO BRING YOU INTO THE

CONVERSATION.

AND ASK HOW IS IT THAT THE

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HAS

STEPPED IN TO HELP PROVIDE FOOD

TO THOSE WHO NEED IT?

>> WELL, THANKS.

THANKS FOR THAT QUESTION.

IT'S GREAT TO BE WITH YOU BOTH.

WE'RE FORTUNATE THAT WE ALREADY

HAD GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE

EMERGENCY FOOD SYSTEM AND THE

PANTRY SYSTEM IN NEW YORK STATE.

I GET TO CHAIR FOR THE GOVERNOR

THE COUNCIL ON HUNGER AND FOOD

POLICY.

WHERE WE HAVE NEW YORK FARMERS,

WHERE WE HAVE CORNELL, WHERE WE

HAVE THE STATE AGENCIES THAT

DEAL IN HUNGER AND FOOD ISSUES.

AND WHERE WE HAVE OUR FOOD BANKS

AND PANTRY SYSTEM AS WELL.

RANDI HAS BEEN A GREAT ASSET ON

THE HUNGER AND FOOD POLICY

COUNCIL.

SO AS WE HEADED INTO THIS

PANDEMIC, WE HAD A HEAD START

BECAUSE WE HAD RELATIONSHIPS

WITH ALL 10 OF OUR FOOD BANKS

ACROSS THE STATE.

WE OBVIOUSLY AT AGRICULTURE KNOW

WHERE THE FOOD IS.

I WANT TO POINT OUT, THERE WAS

NEVER A FOOD SUPPLY ISSUE.

WE HAD PLENTY OF FOOD.

THE CHALLENGE WAS IT WAS IN ONE

PLACE AND THE NEED BECAME IN A

DIFFERENT PLACE.

MORE THAN HALF OF THE FOOD THAT

WE PRODUCED IN NEW YORK

TYPICALLY GOES THROUGH THE FOOD

SERVICE SYSTEM.

RESTAURANTS, INSTITUTIONS, AND

SCHOOLS.

AND SUDDENLY THAT VALVE WAS SHUT

OFF.

AND SO WHEN COVID-19 HIT US IT

REALLY HURT BOTH ENDS OF OUR

FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN.

FARMERS ON ONE END WHO LOST HALF

THEIR MARKET, CONSUMERS ON THE

OTHER END WHO REALLY NEEDED THE

HELP FINDING FOOD.

AND THAT'S WHERE RANDI AND HER

ORGANIZATION CAME IN IN A BIG

WAY.

>> WELL, JUST TO SORT OF BUILD

ON THAT, CAN YOU TELL US A

LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE NOURISH NEW

YORK INITIATIVE AND IF THERE'S

ANY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS THAT

YOU'VE ALSO PARTNERED WITH?

>> WE'VE PARTNERED WITH A LOT OF

FOLKS.

BELIEVE ME.

WE WERE ABLE TO TO -- ONCE EARLY

ON IN THE PANDEMIC GROCERY

STORES WERE MOBBED.

THERE WAS HOARDING GOING ON.

AND THERE WAS A TREMENDOUS

DEMAND, FOR EXAMPLE, ON MILK.

BUT JUST A COUPLE WEEKS INTO THE

PANDEMIC AND SUDDENLY WE HAD A

SITUATION WHERE SUPPLY

WAREHOUSES WERE FULL, DAIRY

PROCESSING FACILITIES COULDN'T

HANDLE ANYMORE.

WE HAD FARMERS ACTUALLY DUMPING

MILK ON THEIR FARMS BECAUSE THEY

HAD NOWHERE TO GO WITH IT.

AT THE SAME TIME WE HAD A

TREMENDOUS NEED.

WHEN THE GOVERNOR HEARD ABOUT

THAT, HE WAS ABLE TO IDENTIFY

FOR US SOME FUNDING AND

EMERGENCY HELP FOOD DOLLARS.

$25 MILLION TO BE EXACT.

WE WERE ABLE TO WITHIN ONE WEEK

SET UP CONTRACTS AND

RELATIONSHIPS WITH ALL TEN FOOD

BANKS, PRORATE THAT FUNDING.

I REMEMBER THIS STARTED ON A

SUNDAY.

THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY WE HAD THE

PROGRAM PUT TOGETHER.

AND TWO DAYS LATER I WAS ON LONG

ISLAND WITH RANDI AND WE WERE

DISTRIBUTING FOOD TO PEOPLE WHO

NEEDED IT.

WE HAD TRAILER LOADS OF MILK,

CHEESE, YOGURT, APPLES,

POTATOES, SOME MEAT PRODUCTS,

EGGS, AND IT WAS OVERWHELMING

FROM AN EMOTIONAL STANDPOINT.

>> WELL, THAT DISTRIBUTION WAS

OUR FIRST LARGEST LARGE

DISTRIBUTION, LARGE SCALE.

SO ON THAT DAY WE SUPPORTED OVER

3,800 FAMILIES.

SO PEOPLE OFTEN SEE THE LINE

SNAKED AROUND FOOD BANKS.

THAT WAS HAPPENING HERE ON LONG

ISLAND AND ACROSS NEW YORK STATE

AS WELL.

AND WE WERE FORTUNATE BECAUSE OF

THE SUPPORT OF COMMISSIONER OF

THE GOVERNOR THROUGH NOURISH NEW

YORK BECAUSE IT REALLY OPENED UP

ALL CHANNELS FOR US AND REALLY

CHANGED EVERYTHING.

>> WELL, IT'S INTERESTING THAT

YOU TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, NOT

ONLY I BELIEVE YOU SAID 30,000

FAMILIES IN THOSE LONG LINES --

>> 3,800 FAMILIES.

>> 3,800.

EXCUSE ME.

BUT THE LONG LINES THAT WE'VE

SEEN ON THE NEWS OF JUST SNAKING

AROUND BUILDINGS, ET CETERA, CAN

YOU JUST TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT

THE LOGISTICS OF DELIVERING FOOD

TO THAT MANY PEOPLE?

BECAUSE AS I -- STUFF WOULD HAVE

TO BE PORTIONED OUT AND IF IT

NEEDS TO BE PROPERLY

REFRIGERATED OR SOMETHING.

I MEAN, THERE'S GOT TO BE A

SYSTEM THAT HAS TO BE SET UP IN

PLACE FIRST TO EVEN BE ABLE TO

DO THAT PROPERLY.

>> YOU KNOW, JENNA, YOU'RE

RIGHT.

THANK YOU FOR ASKING THE

QUESTION THAT WAY.

SO FOOD BANKS ARE IN THE

BUSINESS OF ZRIBLTING FOOD

FAIRLY QUICKLY.

HARVEST STARTED WHAT'S CALLED A

FOOD RESCUE ORGANIZATION.

SO OUR MODEL IS BASED OFF

PICKING UP FOOD AND IMMEDIATELY

DISTRIBUTING THEM AND DOING IT

SAFELY, WHETHER IT'S PERISHABLE

PRODUCTS OR NON-PERISHABLE

PRODUCT.

BUT IN THIS CASE TO DISTRIBUTE

TO NEARLY 4,000 FAMILIES TAKES A

LOT OF PLANNING AND PREPARATION.

AND SO WE WERE IN PARTNERSHIP

WITH THE COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE,

WITH THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE.

WE WORKED WITH THE LOCAL

COUNTIES, WITH THE OFFICE OF

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, WITH THE

LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT.

BECAUSE IMAGINE WHEN WE'RE

SUPPORTING 3,800 FAMILIES,

NEARLY 4,000, THE MAJORITY OF

THEM ARE COMING VIA CAR AND

THERE ARE ALSO ALWAYS A

SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF PEOPLE

THAT COME BY FOOT WITH PUSH

CARTS TO TAKE THE FOOD.

AND SO WE NEEDED TO BE ABLE TO

PLAN FOR BOTH.

WE HAD OVER 200 VOLUNTEERS ON

SITE AT THAT PARTICULAR

DISTRIBUTION.

AND WE'VE DONE THAT NOW THREE

OTHER TIMES.

ON A LARGE SCALE.

BUT MOST OF OUR FOOD

DISTRIBUTIONS ARE BETWEEN 100

PEOPLE AND ABOUT 1,000 TO 2,000

PEOPLE.

SO IT'S A BIG EFFORT.

AND WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE FOOD

TEMPERATURES, A LOT OF THAT WAS

HAPPENING DURING THE SUMMER

MONTHS.

AND NOR SOMFOR SOME REASON EVERF

OUR EVENTS HAPPENED ON THE

HOTTEST DAYS OF THE SUMMER.

SO WE BROUGHT OUT ALL OF OUR

REFRIGERATED TRUCKS, OUR

TRACTOR-TRAILER.

WE HAD A WHOLE SYSTEM OF HOW WE

WOULD OFF-LOAD PRODUCTS AND HOW

MUCH TIME IT WOULD BE OUT BEFORE

IT WAS DISTRIBUTED.

AND SO IN THOSE -- ON THOSE DAYS

WE NEEDED MORE VOLUNTEERS SO WE

COULD TIME AND TASTE ALL OF THE

PRODUCT.

PLUS YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER WE'RE

IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC, OF

A VIRUS WHERE IN THE BEGINNING

THERE WAS LITTLE KNOWN ABOUT THE

TRANSMISSION, AND SO WE STEPPED

UP THE SAFETY PROTOCOLS TO MAKE

SURE THAT WE WERE REALLY LOOKING

OUT FOR OUR VOLUNTEERS, FOR OUR

STAFF AND OF COURSE ALL THE

PEOPLE COMING IN FOR HELP.

SO THAT ADDED ANOTHER LAYER ON

TOP OF EVERYTHING.

SO IN ADDITION TO THE BOX OF

PRODUCE THAT WE WERE

DISTRIBUTING, THE BOX OF

PERISHABLE PRODUCT, WHICH WAS

MEAT AND DAIRY, WE ALSO

DISTRIBUTED PPE TO EVERYBODY AT

EVERY ONE OF OUR DISTRIBUTION

EVENTS.

CONTINUING THROUGH TODAY.

>> AND THAT SEEMS LIKE THAT

WOULD BE AS IMPORTANT -- AT

LEAST DURING THE PANDEMIC AS THE

FOOD.

BUT I DO WANT TO ASK YOU TO

BUILD JUST A LITTLE ON --

BECAUSE YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT

WHAT IT WAS LIKE IN THE SUMMER

AND ALL OF THE FAMILIES YOU WERE

SERVICING.

BUT HERE WE ARE IN THE HOLIDAY

SEASON.

AND OF COURSE THIS TENDS TO BE A

TIME WHEN WE ARE CONDITIONS TO

THINK ABOUT THE LESS FORTUNATE

AND PEOPLE WHO ARE IN NEED.

ARE YOU SEEING AN EVEN BIGGER

INCREASE?

OR WHAT'S HAPPENING AT LEAST

WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION?

>> SO WE KNOW THAT THERE'S AN

INCREASE IN THE NEED IN OUR

COMMUNITY.

WE HAVE PEOPLE CALLING AND

COMING TO OUR DISTRIBUTION

POINTS WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A

FOOD LINE BEFORE.

SO WE'VE HAD PEOPLE FROM WALL

STREET.

WE'VE HAD PHYSICIANS ON LINE.

WE'VE HAD PEOPLE WHO WORK IN THE

HOTEL INDUSTRY AND LANDSCAPING

INDUSTRY.

AND EVERYBODY IN BETWEEN.

ONE OF OUR COMMON PHRASES THAT

WE SAY TO VOLUNTEERS AT OUR

DISTRIBUTION EVENTS IS TODAY WE

ARE GOING TO SEE JAGUARS,

MERCEDES AND BMWs LINING UP

RIGHT NEXT TO THE FORDS,

CHEVIES, AND MAZDAS.

BUT WE TREAT EVERYBODY WITH

RESPECT BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW,

OTHER THAN THEM BEING IMPACTED

BY COVID, WE DON'T KNOW WHAT

ELSE IS GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES

AND WE WOULD EXPECT THE SAME IF

WE WERE ON LINE.

AND PEOPLE LAUGH WHENEVER WE SAY

THAT UNTIL THE CARS START COMING

ONTO THE LINE.

AND IT'S THE TRUTH ABOUT ALL THE

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO

ARE COMING.

SO THE NEED IS INCREASED, WHICH

MEANS THAT THE FOOD AND THE

SUPPORT NEEDS TO INCREASE SO WE

CAN SUPPORT EVERYBODY WHO'S

COMING TO US FOR HELP.

PROGRAMS LIKE NOURISH NEW YORK

WAS ONE OF THOSE VERY IMPORTANT

PROGRAMS WHICH HELPED TO FILL IN

THE GAPS AND BEYOND BECAUSE IT

ACTUALLY ENABLED US TO ADD MANY

DISTRIBUTION EVENTS THAT WE

WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN ABLE TO

PROVIDE TO PEOPLE.

>> WELL, RANDI, WE'VE ONLY GOT

ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT.

SO I DO WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I

ASK YOU, FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE IN A

POSITION WHERE THEY'RE SEEING

THE STORY AND THEY'RE SAYING

THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I WANT TO

SUPPORT, THAT'S SOMETHING I WANT

TO HELP, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO

DO THAT?

>> WE WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO

CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE,

ISLANDHARVEST.ORG.

OR IF YOU DON'T LIVE ON LONG

ISLAND, THE FOOD BANK

ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK IS

CALLED FEEDING NEW YORK STATE.

AND THERE'S A LISTING OF ALL OF

THE FOOD BANKS ACROSS THE STATE.

FOOD BANKS NEED HELP WITH FUNDS,

FOOD, AND WITH PEOPLE ROLLING UP

THEIR SLEEVES AND GETTING

INVOLVED AND VOLUNTEERING.

>> WELL, LISTEN, I WOULD LIKE TO

TAKE THE TIME NOW TO THANK NEW

YORK STATE COMMISSIONER OF

AGRICULTURE RICHARD BALL AND OF

COURSE HE RANDY SHUBIN DRESSNER,

PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ISLAND

HARVEST FOOD BANK, THE LARGEST

FOOD ORGANIZATION ON LONG

ISLAND.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US

AND REMINDING US ABOUT THIS

CRITICALLY IMPORTANT NEED THAT

I'M SURE UNFORTUNATELY WE'LL

AF

CONTINUE TO SEE INTO 2021.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>> YOU GOT IT.

THANK YOU.